Knowledge Bank Blog, Behaviour Change

Training the Behaviour

Are you training the right shopper behaviour?

What makes a top performer?  Natural talent?  Some.  Motivation?  Yes, you are unlikely to go far without it.  Practice?  Definitely.  In fact a lot of the science on what makes an elite performer says that practice is the most important element.

3 things drive the right practice.

First, is starting early.  Take Tiger Woods – he was given his first golf club 5 days before his first birthday.  He played his first game of golf at 18 months.  Then entered his first pitch and putt tournament when he was 2.

Second, is the importance of repetition.  Andre Agassi said ‘my father said that if I hit 2,500 balls each day, I’ll hit 17,500 balls each week, and at the end of the year I’ll have hit nearly 1 million balls.  Numbers, he said, don’t lie.  A child who hits 1 million balls each year will be unbeatable’.

Third, is deliberate practice.  This means extending yourself.  Practicing specific things to improve overall performance.  Some top basketball players practice with a blindfold that only allows them to use their peripheral vision – a really important asset in basketball.  The Williams sisters would hit tennis balls with baseball bats and serve at traffic cones.  Once you’ve done that, hitting a ball with a tennis racquet into a large box becomes pretty easy.

The summary = top performers push themselves harder, for longer, and in more challenging ways.

So, why are we talking about this?  Well, most of you reading this will work in the Retail or FMCG industry.  You will all have different roles, but a common objective – to drive sales.  To drive sales you need to get a shopper to visit your store or buy your brand.  And you need them to do it regularly.  One of the key ways to do this is to ‘train’ shoppers.  Train them to behave in the way you want them to behave.

We often don’t realise it, but a lot of what we do is either implicitly or explicitly training the shopper.  Last week we talked about Coke Zero Sugar.  Coke are explicitly training the shopper.  Want Coke?  Want no sugar?  Choose Coke Zero Sugar.  However, we can also implicitly train the shopper.  Price promotions are a classic example.  Shoppers have been trained to buy whichever brand is on deal.  By promoting deeply and consistently, brands have also re-trained shopper expectations of what a fair price for the brand is.  This works against brand and, usually, category value.

So, training the shopper can work for or against you.  How can you make it work for you?

Know what shopper behaviour you are trying to drive.  This sounds obvious, but we still see a lot of strategies that are not clear on this.  ‘Grow sales by X’ is not good enough.  You need to be specific about the shopper behaviour you will drive to get you there.  Are you trying to get more shoppers to buy – penetration?  Get them to buy more often – frequency?  Get them to buy more each time – volume?  Or get them to spend more – trade up?

Top performers work on improving specific aspects of their game.  They know what they need to improve.  How can you improve if you don’t know what you are trying to improve?

Align activities to that shopper behaviour.  Again, this sounds obvious.  Of course we do this.  But do we really?  Take promotional strategy.  Is your promotional strategy just about driving sales or driving a specific type of sales?  And if it is about a specific type – e.g. driving volume – are the promotional mechanics and incentives for the shopper actively encouraging that behaviour?

Alignment of activities is key.  Take Wrigley’s Gum.  They’ve got a pack format (tub) perfectly suited to the car.  They prioritise presence in convenience outlets and forecourts.  They have a simple message prompt -‘got gum?’  They have even been giving away tub holders for the car.  Everything they are doing is about owning a visible space for the tub in the car and making sure the tub is full.  If you’ve got a tub of gum in your car, you’ve been trained.

Be consistent and be patient.  You don’t get to be a great golfer or tennis player overnight.  ‘1 million balls a year,’ Agassi’s dad said.  In our world we are very quick to move on. We try something, but it doesn’t do as well as we hoped, so let’s try something else.  However, it is often not the activity that is wrong.  We are often doing the right things, just not doing them for long enough.

We have moved on before the shopper has had any chance of being trained.   What we think is a long time is not a long time for a shopper.  Doing something for 6 months feels like an age.  But if the purchase frequency is every 2 months, a shopper has only had 3 purchase occasions to register, and be influenced by, what we are doing.

So, ask yourself 2 questions.  Do you need shoppers to behave in a certain way to drive store, category or brand growth?  And are you training shoppers to behave in that way?

If lots of training is good enough for Woods, Williams, Agassi et al, it is probably good enough for you.

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.